Holidays are a time for entertaining and cocktail parties, but not everyone wants alcoholic beverages. Cordials are a great solution. If you've never made a cordial, you'll look at the recipe and say, "Hey, that's just flavored simple syrup!" You're right, of course. Now add seltzer (carbonated water) and you can call it a cordial. I know, it's just a soft drink, but isn't cordial a much nicer name for it? If you have youngsters around for the holidays, they'll feel much more adult having cordials than just having soda pop.
I decided to make some cordials after reading about them in the November 2010 issue of Saveur. The first is slightly modified from the recipe published there. The second is an original made from some unusual ingredients in my pantry.
4 lemons (peel one, then juice all four to yield about 1 cup of fresh lemon juice)
1 piece of ginger 4 inches long, peeled and chopped
2 cups granluated sugar
1 cup water
You'll need a good citrus juicer to get the most juice from the lemons. Set the juice aside, then put the lemon peel, sugar, and water into a 2-quart pan over medium heat. Simmer about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure all the sugar is fully melted. Add the reserved lemon juice and continue to simmer for another minute or so. Pour through a fine strainer into a measuring cup, then pour into a bottle and refrigerate. Keeps for three weeks. Serve with seltzer or plain water.
The result is a very pleasant drink, but it might need a bit more punch. Infusing the water with the ginger and lemon peel before making the syrup would be a good way to intensify the flavor.
You could peel all four lemons before juicing and set aside what you don't need for the cordial. After making the cordial, while the pan is still dirty, make some simple syrup and candy the lemon peel so you'll have it handy for stollen or other holiday baking. Why not? You know you'll use it.
1 ounce dried Montmorency cherries
½ ounce sassafras root
pinch ground allspice
pinch ground cinnamon
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
Mix everything except the sugar in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. After about five minutes of boiling, cover and remove from the heat. Let sit 30 minutes to infuse, then strain. Add the sugar to the infused water and bring to a gentle boil, stirring frequently, until the sugar is fully dissolved. Strain again if desired, then chill. Keeps for three weeks. Serve by mixing equal parts cordial and seltzer.